, May 13, 1863.
To the Editors of the Enquirer:
--I desire briefly to respond to a communication from Gen. Early
, which appeared in the columns of your paper of yesterday.
His insinuation with reference to correspondents "in the interest of particular commands," if intended for this brigade, is gratuitous and unfounded.
To my knowledge no publication has been made by any one connected, directly or indirectly, with it; and I was not aware that his conduct in the late engagements around Fredericksburg
had been made the subject of newspaper consure until I saw it announced over his own signature.
When Gen. McLaws
moved up the river, on the night of the30th of April my brigade was detached from his command, and I was ordered to report to Gen. Early
, who was charged with the duty of watching the movements of that portion of the Federal
army which had been left in the vicinity of Hamilton's Crossing
and opposite this place, on the other side of the river, and, as I supposed, to give him battle if he should offer it.
About 2 o'clock on Sunday morning, having thrown a pontoon bridge over the river, the enemy commenced crossing into Fredericksburg
in large numbers.
was then with his entire division at Hamilton's Crossing
I at once informed him of the fact, and asked for reinforcements.
With several batteries, which were under the command of Gen. Pendleton
, and a single brigade of infantry, I had a front of not less than three miles to defend, extending from Taylor's hill
, on the left, to the foot of the hills in rear of the Howison house
, and not "the short line in rear of and to the left of Fredericksburg
," as stated by Gen. Early
The 21st regiment was posted between the Marye house
and the plankroad, three companies of which were afterwards sent to the support of the 18th regiment, which was stationed behind the stone wall at the Marye house
The 17th regiment was placed in front of Lee's hill
, and the 13th still farther to the right.
One regiment from Gen. Hays
's command was subsequently placed to the right of the 13th. Four pieces of artillery were placed on the right of Marye's house, two on the left, and the balance on Lee
's and the hills in the vicinity of the Howison house
— thus making the only disposition of the small force at my command, which, in my judgment, would prevent the enemy from passing the line.
The battle commenced at daylight.
A furious cannonading was opened from the enemy's batteries in town and along both banks of the river.
Two assaults were made upon Marye
's heights, but both were signally repulsed.
About 8 o'clock a heavy column of the enemy was seen moving up the river, evidently for the purpose of getting possession of Taylor
's bill, which, if successful, would have given him command of the position which I held.
But this was prevented by the timely arrival of Gen. Hays
with four regiments of his brigade.
The enemy having thus been foiled in his purpose, turned the head of his column down the river again; but it was impossible to tell whether he had abandoned the attempt or intended to advance again upon the same position with a still heavier force.
had now reached Taylor's hill
with three regiments of his brigade, one of which he promised to send to the right in case it should be needed.
This regiment was sent for, but there was not sufficient time for it to come up before the action was over.
With a line as extended as this, and in consideration of the small number of troops at my disposal, and the uncertainty as to the point against which the enemy would hurl the immense force he had massed in town, I deemed it proper that the regiments should remain as they then were, and a wait the happening of events.
Very soon, however, the enemy came out from his hiding place and moved in three columns and three lines of battle--twenty thousand strong — against the positions held by my brigade.
At the same instant Col. Humphreys
was assailed on the left, Cols.Hulder
and the Louisiana
regiment on the right, and Col. Griffin
in the centre.
After a determined and bloody resistance, by Col. Griffin
and the Washington artillery, the enemy, fully twenty to one, succeeded in getting possession of Marye's hill.
At all other points he was triumphantly repulsed.
But seeing the line broken at this point, I ordered the 13th, 17th and the Louisiana
regiment to fall back to the crest of Lee's hill
, to prevent the enemy from getting in our rear.
This they did, resisting his approach at every step, and with the aid of Frojin's and Carleton
's batteries, both of which were handled with the most consummate skill and courage, finally succeeded in checking his advance.
The 21st regiment, with the remainder of the 18th, after Marye's hill had been taken fell back and rejoined the brigade on the hills.
The distance from town to the points assailed was so short, the attack so suddenly made, and the difficulty of removing troops from one part of the line to another was so great, that it was utterly impossible for either Gen. Wilcox
or Gen. Hays
to reach the scene of action in time to afford any assistance whatever.
It will thus be seen that Marye
's hill was defended by but one small regiment, three companies and four pieces of artillery, and not by the entire brigade.
A more heroic struggle was never made by a mere handful of men against overwhelming odds.
According to the enemy's own accounts, many of this noble little band resisted to the death, with clubbed guns, even after his vast hordes had swept over and around the walls.
His loss, from reports published in his own newspapers, was a thousand killed and wounded; but, according to the statements of intelligent citizens, it reached two thousand.
The inference naturally drawn form Gen. Early
's statement is, that on Monday morning Gen. Gordon
's command drove the enemy from Marye's hill, which my brigade had failed to hold the day before.
I would scorn to detract from the well-earned reputation of this brigade and its gallant commander; but the truth is, the enemy had abandoned Marye
's heights, and Gen. Gordon
took possession without opposition.
My brigade needs no defence at my hands.
Its reputation, won upon many battle-fields, is well established.
This communication is not written for that purpose, but to correct erroneous impressions which Gen. Early
's publication was calculated to make.